“I Dream of Jeannie” aired on NBC from September 18, 1965, to May 26, 1970. It was an American fantasy sitcom about the relationship between an astronaut (Larry Hagman, who later played J.R. Ewing on “Dallas”) and a beautiful, voluptuous 2,000-year-old genie (Barbara Eden). The astronaut becomes the genie’s master. The series was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon in response to the great success of rival network ABC’s “Bewitched,” which had debuted in 1964 as the second-most watched program in the United States.
In the pilot episode, astronaut Tony Nelson is on a space flight when his one-man capsule comes down far from the planned recovery area, near a deserted island in the South Pacific. On the beach, Tony notices a strange bottle that rolls by itself. When he rubs it after removing the stopper, smoke starts shooting out and a Persian-speaking female genie materializes and kisses Tony on the lips, shocking him.
They cannot understand each other until Tony expresses his wish that the genie could speak English, which she then does. Then, per his instructions, she “blinks” and causes a recovery helicopter to show up to rescue Tony, who is so grateful, he tells her she is free, but Jeannie, who instantly falls in love with Tony after being trapped for 2,000 years, re-enters her bottle and rolls it into Tony’s duffel bag so she can accompany him back home.
Tony at first keeps Jeannie in her bottle most of the time, but he finally relents and allows her to enjoy a life of her own. However, her life is devoted mostly to his, and most of their problems stem from her love and affection towards Tony, and her desire to please him and fulfill her ancient heritage as a genie.
Jeannie’s causing chaos by attempting to “help” Tony was basically the plot line for much of the show’s five year run. The show was a moderate success, making into the top 30 shows in only two of its five seasons. It was a lightweight, silly, and enjoyable, albeit unremarkable, sitcom.
As an indicator of how times have changed in the 55 years since “Jeannie” was in prime time, one of the biggest points of contention between the creative department and the producers was the amount of skin Jeannie was showing with her costume. Mid-drift was allowed, but the second the naval area popped out, the producers were going to slap the writers with hefty fines.
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